Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 69(3) August 2019

Hoc Tempore:
Catholics Are Needed In Healthcare!

Dr Adrian Treloar

Moves towards assisted suicide despite coercion of Dutch GPs to perform euthanasia.

At the other end of life, Nick Boles MP was granted a debate in July on assisted dying. The BMA and RCGP are to poll their member on assisted dying. This is a time of great danger; and yet a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics in May entitled “Pressure in dealing with requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide. Experiences of general practitioners” [6] found that the majority of Dutch physicians feel pressure when dealing with a request for euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide (EAS). The study explored the pressures experienced by general practitioners using semistructured in-depth interviews with 15 Dutch GPs, focusing on actual cases.

Six categories of pressure GPs experienced in dealing with EAS requests were revealed: (1) emotional black­mail, (2) control and direction by others, (3) doubts about fulfilling the criteria, (4) counterpressure by patient’s relatives, (5) time pressure around referred patients and (6) organisational pressure.

InjectionThe authors reported cases of emotional blackmail included patients threatening to commit suicide if the euthanasia request was not granted. Disturbingly, there were cases of the family threatening to kill the patient: ‘Well, will I have to do it myself then, will I have to put a pillow over her head? And then you will be the guilty one’ (Case 9.1)

The study also showed that doctors had to try to counteract pressure being exerted on a patient by their family. Case 4.1 states: “One GP counteracted this pressure by encouraging the patient to explicitly state to her partner: ‘I am dying, not you, and I am the one making this decision’

We cannot hope that the weak, sick and vulnerable will be protected and safeguarded under any laws that allow doctors to kill.

De Boer et al concluded that “the pressure can be attributable to the patient–physician relationship and/or the relationship between the physician and the patient’s relative(s), the inherent complexity of the decision itself and the circumstances under which the decision has to be made.” We are familiar with the pressures applied to both mothers and professionals to cooperate with abortion, and should not doubt that in the NHS, pressure to cooperate with euthanasia will also be enormous.


  1. de Boer ME, Depla MFIA, den Breejen M, et al. Pressure in dealing with requests for euthanasia or assisted suicide. Experiences of general practitioners. Journal of Medical Ethics Published Online First: 15 May 2019. doi: 10.1136/medethics­2018-105120